Thursday, 24 July 2014

'Hakol yihyeh beseder' - 'Everything will be alright'...

Into week two now, and the dust is beginning to settle.

This week there have been a few developments. Impatience abounds due to the vast amounts of free time (to be discussed later), and I want to start building up my career here.

Speaking of which, I've started a blog at the Times of Israel (link here) dealing with the issues arising from being an olah chadasha (female - new immigrant) in the current situation. Feel free to peruse.

I have been focusing my efforts on getting the career up and running. Whilst I was previously a teacher in Blighty, I've been longing to return to the good old world of journalism. One of  the main reasons behind my aliya was in order to achieve this - I've always seen Israel, with it's transformed desert and hub of high-tech and start ups - as a land of opportunity.

It seems much easier to break/return to the media here. In Jerusalem all of the media outlets, both local and international, are in one building, coincidentally next to my bank. This building seems to be the very key to my success. Having been there before, and wanting to access that within it again, I formulated a plan .

So, in I strolled, nonchalantly and like I belonged there and charmed the guard, just like in a video game. Upon seeing me, he realised that I didn't actually belong there, demanding to know, 'Where's your press pass?'. Using what G-d and my mum gave me, I offered him a cheeky grin and retorted, 'Where's YOUR press pass?' namedropped a bit, and up I went.

Since I had already achieved my objectives thus far by entering the building, why not try to push my luck further? I decided to go down every single floor of the 8 available, introducing myself to the various news agencies within and offer my services as a freelancer.

It would seem that a cut-glass English accent goes a long way here. I met with the news editor from CNN (who first asked if I was a model. No, seriously.I tried to stop blushing, wiped the sweat off my face, looked him in the eye and said, 'ex'). He asked if I could go to Gaza and report, like RIGHT NOW. I politely declined. I then barged into the Associated Press office, and others. I was both shocked and quite pleased at the way that head honchos (the chief of the bureau at AP and I chatted like old friends) were really welcoming (you know, rather than calling security and treating me like an escaped lunatic) and even took me seriously. That's great, but I honestly can't imagine attempting the same approach with, say, the Times in London, who's first resort I'm sure would be calling security and treating me like an escaped lunatic.

In other news, I have moved up a class - to Alef-4. Hebrew is a wonderful, rich language, albeit with confusing tenses and specific male/female forms. It's funny, but just as I feel that I'm getting the hang of aspects of the language, along come what I've termed 'transsexual plurals' - female words which suddenly become male in the plural, and vice versa - which confound and befuddle. Either way, I respect their right to exist, even if I will never fully understand or appreciate their transformation.

Talking of which, my attempts to speak in Hebrew, beyond the basic, at least, usually culminates in something confusing or ridiculous through mispronunciation. For example, attempting to express my confusion and delight with the language by declaring, 'what a language!' - 'Eze safar!', I was pronouncing the word with an 'f', instead of it's rightful 'p' - 'eze saPar' - and was therefore actually saying, 'what a haircut!' No wonder people looked a bit confused, what with the definitive lack of strange haircuts anywhere in the proximity.

The main goal now is to establish a routine and keep myself busy. I'm finding it a bit difficult to deal with having not had any free time for the past...I can't remember. Before teaching (where 'free time' seemed to be a mythical concept, something we heard about from other people but hadn't experienced ourselves), I was living in Israel (I recall having some free moments on the kibbutz... for a short period of time. I think), and before that was university, which is usually where you have the most free time of all. However, when not in class, I was running a university society and that took up insane amounts of time. I was always schmoozing, planning, attending or communicating in some way. It's a wonder I even managed to do a degree!

Anyway. A routine of sorts has formed - I attend ulpan (language immersion) at 8.30 am, have a break ('hafsaka') at 10.30-11am, and return to class until 12.45, which is lunchtime. After eating, the boredom zone awaits - the afternoon.

There is sweet FA to do if you're staying in the ulpan. I mean, you could always do your 'shaarei bait' - homework - but to be honest, I've had a lot of stuff to sort out - I have just moved country, after all - and I want to use that time to explore and reconnect with Jerusalem.

Then there are the evenings.  Some people do their homework in the evenings, some go out. Central Jerusalem is only a bus ride away. I have been good and completed my homework every evening except for last night and tonight. I must confess that, even when I was a teacher, I hated homework. It's a routine exercise in pointlessness - backed up by research, noch - and I used to hate having to set it, answer people's questions about it (both kids and parents), and then mark it and give feedback on it. Then there were the colleagues I had to deal with, regarding homework - had they set enough homework? Could I show them my homework tasks so they could copy it? Was this sort of thing the right idea? It went on and on, and it was almost as bad as being a pupil myself.

Because, homework is a pain in the arse for everybody involved - anyone who cares enough about it to that extent is clearly misplacing attention. I did eventually, after 3/4 years of teaching, work out a way to set homework for each class I taught twice a week and still mark each and every kid's homework in the lesson, but that is slightly off topic. The point is, however much I don't want to do it, I'm self motivated enough to know it's beneficial to me and make sure it's done. But, when the weather is so warm and I'm bored anyway, I resent having to do it. It's ironic that this is what it's taken for me to empathise with my former pupils.

 But onwards and upwards. I will be off to Tel Aviv next week for a meeting and to see friends. Bearing in mind the way my last trip ended, I will be wearing my running shoes, just in case.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

My first siren

I've now been here a week and have since done various more bits and bobs, such as buying a kettle (a necessity for a Brit abroad) and unpacking. Life is good.

I think I'm going to ask to move up in my ulpan class, as I'm not feeling challenged (the very same complaint which used to irritate me as a teacher)- but I haven't learned any new vocabulary and, while I quite like the teacher, as a (former) teacher myself, I can tell when I'm not getting something out of the class.

It's actually highly irritating being an ex-teacher in an academic situation. It makes me realise just how much I pushed myself and ran circles around my pupils to help them get the best, most useful learning experience possible. Also that the British educational system is way too focused on box-ticking exercises (peer-assessment? Mini plenaries? Independent learning?) which have little to no benefit, and that these aren't hard and fast rules to stick to in a learning experience. In my ulpan class, we were repeating vocabulary/grammar rules ad nauseum, there was loads of teacher talk and therefore the learning was solely teacher led. Had I not known the vocab being taught already, I would've been absolutely fine with this approach. As it is, I feel now like my prior career was routinely exhausting for no reason whatsoever. Oh well. Plus ca change.

And what a change! Other Brits (and most likely other ulpaners too) have been experiencing some homesickness and doubts. This must be normal: all of us have uprooted ourselves from our lives and schlepped out to start anew in what appears to be a war zone, to the outside world at least.

I confess I've had no such doubts. Yes, I still miss Corny (and Benjy), which is inevitable. However, the lady who rehomed Corny was so happy and grateful to have him, which is both comforting and is closure in itself. Otherwise, I feel very much at home in Israel. I don't know if this is a false sense of ease, or if I'll experience homesickness later, but right now I'm very happy. I don't regret my choice for a minute.

I think because I've been waiting for so long, I'm finally where I want to be. Maybe not Jerusalem (it is the most beautiful city I have ever seen, but a bit claustrophobic/religious, if I'm honest), but Israel definitely. With this in mind, I've been craving a visit to Tel Aviv pretty much since we landed on the tarmac. Telling this to the cab driver, en route to the ulpan last week, he told me I wouldn't be craving it so much once I'd experienced an azaka (siren) there.

And, ladies and gentlemen, this is what I am writing to report. For I ventured to Tel Aviv and experienced my first ever azaka.

I've been stewing over what happened over Shabbat. After going out on Thursday night, to celebrate a fellow ulpaner's birthday (and because the weekend begins on Thursday night in Israel), I arose late on Friday morning, with one idea in my head - to go to Tel Aviv. Screw the beach - I missed the city. I also wanted to see Deborah, who has lived there for the past two years. So off we went, leaving the ulpan at 12.30.

Deborah invited me to stay for the weekend, but I wanted to check out the situation before committing to staying over. As the buses in Jerusalem stop for Shabbat (the Sabbath) an hour or so before sunset, this was to be a flying visit.

I caught sight of my reflection in the window as we approached the city, and I had the stupidest grin on my face. It reflected exhilaration - now I was really home!

Deborah and I caught up; we hung out on the beach a little bit (I have a slightly impressive watch and ring tan to prove it), and at around 5.45ish, she caught a bus home and I began to make my way back to the rendezvous point for my friends from the ulpan.

And that's when it happened.

As I sat on a bench waiting for my friends to join me, an eerie, piercing sound broke the air. It took me a split-second to realise that this was the dreaded azaka.

Now, prior to leaving for Israel, I prepared myself for the azaka in a few ways. During the strike day at school (last...week?! It seems a lifetime ago now), I put 90 seconds (the time you have to get to a bomb shelter) on a countdown, and practised running various lengths of corridor to my, erm, desk, which served as the shelter. I became pretty good at it too. I also chatted to my grandpa, who lived through the Blitz. He told me about the 'Blitz Spirit' and sense of togetherness in these situations, and that being prepared is half the battle. So I felt ok going to Tel Aviv, knowing what could potentially happen.

Being by myself in the street, I wasn't sure where the nearest shelter would be. In something I can only describe as 'survival mode', I ran, calmly, to a building I'd been in before.

The key is not to panic. I'd forgotten the security code on the door, but worked it out in a few seconds. I walked to the bomb shelter, went down into it and stood.

I didn't know where my friends were. I called them a couple of times. I realised they must have been on the street, walking to meet me. They didn't answer.

I was running off pure adrenaline. The sirens were still blaring. Then they cut out.

I took a few deep breaths and suddenly, there were two very loud BOOMs.

Simultaneously exploding in my head were several short, sharp four letter words (which I can't write here).

Up until that point, despite it all, I had been very calm. I knew there would be booms - that's the sound of impact! - but I hadn't realised they'd be so loud. I figured they must be near to where I was. It also hit me that, during my practises for this, I hadn't factored in anything to do with staircases.

After I'd sought shelter, heard the booms and realised what had just happened - a little bit of shock set in (despite all my tough preparation!!!), I felt slightly drained, confused and angry at myself - how dare I feel like this? Tel Avivians - my friend Deborah included - have to do this several times a day! Hell, the people in the south practically live in their bomb shelters, and have been for the past 15 years! Who the hell was I to feel bad for myself?

Mustering that famed British stiff upper lip, I exited the bomb shelter, located my friends, who had been just over the road and had run to a street shelter. The impact(s) had been just above our heads. We made the decision to return to Jerusalem for Shabbat.

On the sherut (minicabs which run like intercity taxis), a bit more shock set in. I started thinking about other times I'd been in equally uncertain situations. I thought about the atmosphere of fear and shock during and in the aftermath of the London bombings. I was keeping it together, but I can't deny I was a bit freaked out, wondering if something was wrong with me to react in this way

Importantly, at no point did I regret my choice to make aliya. I think it's just that the first azaka to a non-native is always going to be shocking, despite expecting it. It's best, in any case, to get these experiences over and done with quickly. I just can't imagine ever getting used to it, as some of my Israeli friends have, but who knows in time?

When I finally got back to the ulpan, the news stated that what I had just experienced was a 5 rocket barrage, each intercepted by the Iron Dome. Thank G-d I didn't know that at the time.

I might wait a little bit before going back to Tel Aviv. or, it could be that next time there's an azaka I'm better prepared.

Either way, it's another first in the Holy Land!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

I'm back!

Hi everyone,

Thanks for your messages of well-wishing and support - I am finally home.

After a pizza-y goodbye with Daisy, Imran and Shane, I retired to bed at 3am, and left for the airport at 6.45.

One of my biggest fears about the actual aliya trip was the flight - when you have that many bags, with that much weight (more of which later) and special circumstances, something is bound to go wrong.

I was fully braced for it ('prepare for the worst'), but I must say I was happily gobsmacked by how impressively smoothly it all ran. If that's a major averse factor when considering aliya, I would think again.

I opted to travel from Luton, despite having an awful experience with El Al at Luton a couple of years before. Long story short, I arrived for their famed overnighter straight from work. Maybe I was just tired, maybe Israeli females take an instant dislike to me, possibly both of these things, I was interrogated at every step of the way - and when flying El Al there are a lot of steps!

Fortunately, we arrived in good time, two hours before my flight. I joined the queue, and was instantly moved to the first stage - questioning by a 'very nice' El Al employee.

The conversation, for those of who who have never flown El Al, usually revolves around where you grew up, if and how you know Hebrew, your intentions on your trip to Israel etc etc. It's a typical Israeli screening method, which is usually replicated at several points in the process.

My parents were eagerly standing by me, helping me schlep the cases. Therefore, the conversation was longer than strictly necessary, as my mum had rather taken a liking to the 'very nice' young man; he would begin asking the questions, as dictated by the El Al protocol:

Man: Tell me where you grew up.
Me: Bushey, north-west London. Near Watford.
Man: Is there a large Jewish community there?
Me: Yeah, it's quite up and coming; loads of young families.
Man: Good. How do you -
Mum (interrupting): And where did YOU grow up?
Man: Erm, I grew up in Tel Aviv. North Tel Aviv.
Mum: Oh very nice! So do you visit England often?
Man: Erm...

This continued for some minutes. The man would ask a question to me (because that's his job), and my mum would subtly refine it and return the question back to him.

I soon sussed out what she was doing. As we left the check in line, after dropping off my bags, she declared him 'a very nice young man' (her highest available accolade), to which I replied, with regards to Hayley from 'Modern Family' - 'Never go with the first option. Scout around a bit before making a decision'.

But before this was the moment I had been waiting for. The bag drop.

Dear readers, I bated my breath. I warned my parents to stay away while it was happening. I prayed for an Israeli male to be behind the desk.

None of this happened. A British lady (*%$@#?!) was instead there. I instantly knew I had no hope. But I tried my very best.

The first bag was ok. The lady (mistakenly) assumed that each bag could be up to 23kg. the first was 22. Off it went on its merry way, and that was that.

The next, once I'd struggled, attempting nonchalance, ignoring the feeling of my shoulder blades threatening to dislocate, weighed - 28 kg. The same for the one after. in fact, the bag had started to split a little bit.

During each weigh in, my dad would sidle up to the monitor, make big eyes and say 'oooh. That's heavy', behaviour which obviously he had been warned against, and did not help one little bit. In fact, I hold him partially responsible for what happened next.

She weighed my hand luggage - I had, as stated that I was allowed on the site, two pieces. This was 1kg over. And apparently, I had one piece too many. Being 19kg (!!!) overweight, she had to consult with her supervisor, and it was agreed that I could either pay $70 for the extra weight, or $50 to check in a bag.

Now, obviously the most hassle-free step would be to simply check in my hand luggage and have that as an extra bag, all for the small price of $50. But no - the principle of the matter is that I should be given a bit of slack with this stuff. I am moving country, after all. And if I'd known there was the option of an extra bag for $50, I would have taken my kitchen stuff too!

Anyway. To resolve the situation, I decided to try flirting. Hell, these airport staff must get treated horribly. So having someone be nice would help me to achieve what I wanted...right?

I started off with, 'ah, you know us girls - the amount of shoes I had to chuck away!', and riffed on various themes incorporating girly stuff - makeup, clothes... you name it, I did it.

It didn't work. Despite my protests surrounding the principle of the thing, my mum took me off, coughed up the $50 necessary, and checked in my sodding hand luggage. Meh.

Then it was time for the goodbyes. There were a few tears from my mum (and a bit from me), and then onto the plane.

The flight was smooth and short. Despite some musical chairs at the beginning, all went as planned. Until we had to descend into Ben Gurion airport, when we began circling just off the coast for 45 minutes.

I realised this was due to a rocket attack while we were in the air and, surprisingly, felt very calm about it. When we did eventually descend into Ben Gurion, the mood was as it always is, but tinged with a certain alertness which I have never seen before. Signs pointing to the nearest miklat (bomb shelter) were strewn every few yards. The person who met us from the plane (charming) gave us some advice, should the atzama (siren) sound while we were in or around Tel Aviv - don't panic, get to a shelter. That's it.

Fortunately, it did not, and we were taken upstairs to the Misrad Hapnin (Ministry of Absorption) in the airport. I had to wait for another person to finish their appointment, but all in all, the whole shebang took about half an hour, where I was awarded my teudat oleh (Immigrant document), my teudat zehut (ID card) and some other stuff, all in a lovely blue foldery thing.

We were then escorted to the cab, which would take us on to our new destination. Just seeing the outside of the airport, and knowing that my time in Israel was no longer limited, coupled with the sheer exhaustion, I felt the happiest I have in...months? I don't know, but I was bordering on delirious. An atzama could have sounded right there and then and I don't think it would have broken my mood.

We arrived at the ulpan (language immersion course, also the term for the building where we were staying, hosting said course), and settled in. The apartment I'm in has two beds (one each for me and Vicky), a kitchen and a bathroom. There are also some cupboards, which is an unexpected surprise.

Exhausted, I waited up for Vicky, who I haven't seen in 6 weeks and who arrived (after a balagan at the airport) at 3am. After we unpacked some of her stuff and we were settling in to bed, we could hear a strange noise from just beyond our window. Was it the dreaded atzama?

No. After consulting my phone (there are apps indicating a 'red alert' siren), it turned out it was only a muezzin singing the call to prayer in a nearby Arab village. At 3am. After a very long day and week. Nice.

In the past two days, I have been mainly settling in and setting up my new life here - opening a bank account, health insurance, setting up a phone line, getting the Israeli equivalent of an oyster card (a 'rav kav', which up until recently, whenever I heard it discussed, thought it was the latest funky new kiruv rabbi) and working out what my grandpa would term 'what's what'. The best part was when, after unpacking, I realised that the DVDs and DVD player I had schlepped all the way from Blighty only had a scart lead connection...and my laptop didn't. Great! I put that one down to a stressful packing job, as documented in my earlier posts.

I also had my Hebrew language test. Knackered out from the epic events of the day before, where I MADE ALIYA (for real reals, not for play play) and then waited up til gone 3am, I wasn't really up for the intensive reading, writing and speaking test, but I played ball, before going for a nap later.

My Hebrew level is a bit odd. I can understand most of what's going on, mainly through processing the stuff said around the stuff I don't understand, then through establishing the context of the situation. My speaking is ok - barring some grammatical mistakes - I can read Hebrew, without vowels, and I can write it too.

The reading test consisted of several progressively more difficult grammar questions. I made it up to 35 before I gave up, partly because I was tired and partly because I know my limits. There's no point guessing when you clearly have no idea what's going on and I wanted to be placed in the correct level.

For the writing, we were given 3 options to write about. I opted to discuss 'my first time in Israel', which was 9 years ago (!) on Aish haTorah. I described the reason it was my first trip to Israel, how I felt, what we did etc etc. It wasn't the most engaging of reads, I must admit. After reviewing it, the teacher said, 'ooh I think we'll put you in Bet' (the intermediate group). I thought she was taking the piss.

It was then time for the speaking. I took in my writing test, and had two teachers interviewing me about my past Hebrew experiences. I told them about kibbutz, and living in Israel, picking up bits and pieces of different languages etc. they wanted to know what part of London I came from (what is it with Israelis and exact locations? Are they mapping us or something?), my school, my family and so forth.

I did the best I could, but - like with any other language I speak, including English - I usually need a bit of time to think about what I'm going to say, and often get verb endings/tenses/conjunctions wrong.

The two interviewers were discussing (in Hebrew) what level class they would put me in. They said things such as 'she's a writer?' and 'the grammar's a bit off here' and decided that I would be in Alef Shalosh (intermediate). Fine by me!

Since then however, there has been another test. There were too many intermediates, so we were tested again. Once more, I had to write an account on 'My city'. I wrote something that loosely translates as this:

'I come from London, but I really consider Tel Aviv to be my city. It's very similar and I feel at home there. there's always a lot to do - go for a walk, visit a musuem, go shopping, go to the beach, and party all the time. it's always sunny, which is a change as London is sunny now but won't be for much longer. It's not very wintery in Tel Aviv, and so I like it.'

Again., far from poetry. But I was under pressure. I await the final decision, but am excited to be learning Hebrew.

Otherwise, I have been so busy - meeting new people, learning about different their different cultures and communities. It's fascinating - everywhere you go here, there are bursts of conversation in French,. Hebrew, Spanish, Portugese, Italian, Turkish... it really does feel like the biblical ingathering of the exiles!

It's only the first week and already I'm having so much fun and feel so different to when I was in London. I feel much freer and am relishing the challenge of being in a new country and navigating it as a newbie.

But more of that later. Right now, there are places to be and things to do.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

All loose ends tied

Mein damen und herren; mesdames et monsieurs; ladies and gents! The hour is almost (and you, if you're that empathetic or visual) - in 10 hours, I will be leaving these shores.

The past few days have been a blur; thank gd I took off yesterday!! I will condense the events into my very favourite listing device, the bullet point form:

  • I finished my job! I am no longer a teacher! Well, at least not officially. I'm sure my teacher side will emerge once I do verbal battle with some irritating Americans (Americans: I qualified that with 'irritating'. I'm not grouping you all as that. You know I love some of you) or anyone under the age of 25 (No comment. Teenage til 25, IMO). Nevertheless, and despite the short time frame in which I was at the school, it was emotional to say goodbye to my colleagues and my pupils. A fine bunch, they are, and definitely the best school I've worked in throughout my teaching career. A high point, to end it on, I would say. And thank gd. 
  • I took Corny to his new home. the lady is a proper cat lady (I could never fully commit to the role like that) - she has pictures of every cat she's ever owned on the walls, including one of Corny, and plenty of cat decor and furnishings. Corny seemed very happy there. I held it together pretty well whilst at the house, then cried all the way home. I called her later - she is ecstatic, and he seems quite settled there too. This in itself grants me much happiness and relief. 
  • But, once I had arrived home - I had no time to be weak! I let the cleaners in, finished packing and got ready for more flat viewings. Long story short, I have let it again, and this pleases me muchly. One more loose end tied. Also, my flat looks AMAZING, all shiny and new, once it had been professionally cleaned. I did feel sad to be leaving, but ready and excited for what this meant - aliya, baby! 
  • I then moved some of my stuff - including my cases - back to my parents with the help of my dad, who I called on the way home from leaving Corny and who evidently does not like the sound of girls crying. It's sad I've just learned this technique, but will apply this knowledge tomorrow at the airport check in desk, should it come to it, when submitting my overweight bags.  
  • And now, a life lesson: moving back to your parents home (even for two nights) after you've been away for so long is strange but also kind of great at the same time. My mum had amazing food waiting for me, and has been running backwards and forwards to replenish my tea. Niiiice. I have realised I've picked up some bad habits though - living alone does that to you - such as leaving stuff in random places, forgetting other people need to use the shower and talking to myself, amongst others. 
  • My mum is finally happy for me and accepts my decision, and just in the nick of time. She left me a lovely and positive card, expressing all of this - 

We then packed and repacked my cases (this is still a horrific and painful subject, and as such will not be expanded upon further) - it transpired it was actually a two man job. After this, as a reward or something, we went to get my nails painted, and which Louis the puppy promptly ruined upon our return. 

I'm sure they're sad to see me go. To be honest, the tears I've cried in these past few days have been mostly of frustration (packing. Eurghh!), sadness (Corny, saying goodbye to important people), happiness (that I'm finally doing it!!After so long!) and fear (rockets, sirens and airstrikes). 

And so I await the last round of goodbyes - some very important people - Daisy, Imran and Shane - are right now winging their way over here with one last ceremonial pizza, I am informed. 

And there - just like that, all loose ends are (finally) tied. I knew we'd get there in the end. 

From England-based Fliss, polite, tamed of mane and pining for the fjords of the Holy Land, I bid you adieu. 

The next time I write, it will be from my new, yet prior, home.

My homeland. My lifeblood. My dream. 

I can feel the transformation beginning - Israel is practically within my reach; my hair is frizzing at the mere thought of the heat and I'm breaking out my stash of flip flops in antici -


Here we go...! Lehitra'ot! Yalla! 

I'm on my way home. And it feels SO good. 

Thursday, 10 July 2014


And,because this is the Middle East (and Israel particularly), a 'situation' has escalated quickly.

I didn't sleep last night for several reasons. But, before we get into that, a little visual for you:

I fully admit, I did have a bit of a wobble yesterday. I am still incredibly psyched to go - but the prospect of entering a country abuzz with rocket fire is giving me some pause for thought. 

Last night was horrible, for several reasons: 

  1. Sustained rocket fire and sirens - a lot of my friends spent the evening running back and forth to bomb shelters, 
  2. I have almost fully packed up my flat, but there are so many boxes! How am I going to get them to the place I'm storing them, and stack them?!
  3. Ditto my suitcases. I have spent the past 3 evenings trying to wedge in all the stuff I'll need, chucking and donating as much as possible. The weight limit is 3 bags of 20kg. I'm up to two at 25kg and one at approx 27. 
  4. It's my second last night with Corny. I know I should just 'suck it up', but in light of the topics I'll be discussing below, I am feeling worse than ever about the prospect of leaving him. 
  5. My head and my heart are in two minds. My mum and even some of my friends are telling me to not go on Sunday, but to stay in England and wait it out a bit, as the situation has become much more intense in the past 2 days. 
  6. The tenant to be moving in on Saturday - 'The Iranian' I referred to a few posts back - has been messing around my estate agents and not providing the requested documents. They have told him that unless he does so, and soon (ffs - I'm leaving the country in less than 4 days!), they're putting my flat back on the market. As such, I have two more viewings tomorrow, just as there are boxes and suitcases everywhere, no discernible signs of homeliness and the flat's a mess. 
All of the above resulted in a sleepless night. 

I am really confused, and very upset, at the idea that I'll be under constant rocket fire for possibly the first few months of my life in Israel. My mum has been calling me all day, telling me really awful things like, 'you know if you take a direct hit on a building, you'll die', and 'I don't know why you're so intent on going to live in a war zone', alongside other unsettling things which will not paint her in a good ligh, and I therefore don;t wish to repeat here. I know she is only trying to prevent me from going because she is scared, but when I feel awful enough (for other various reasons I won't be documenting here), this is the least helpful approach in which to communicate her feelings. She's even asked me to postpone my flight until the situation dies down - but this is an impossibility, as Ulpan begins on Monday. 

Additionally, I've quit my job (my last day is tomorrow!) and I'm about to give away my beloved cat. Why on earth would I so readily do these things if I were to sit around, waiting for the situation to improve, for an incalculable amount of time? 

What's also confusing is the blasé attitude of some Israelis towards the bombardment. I'm so confused - humour is the best way to deal with traumatic situations, but on the one hand, I have my mother prophesying doomsday, and on the other, this: 

You know how mad I am because of these rockets? That was a my last inside-out salmon avocado sushi bite, and i dropped it on the carpet because of the alarm! It was a perfectly spiced and sauced bite! dammit! ruining our lives...

and this (which is informative at least): 

and this, which is actually very funny, and must have elements of truth:

I'm pretty sure I'm not making a  mistake. I've wanted this for so long, but alright, I admit it - I'm terrified. I've not grown up with rocket fire, I'm exhausted from the end of the school year and I'm very, very emotional.

I'm not scared only of the rockets, but of making the wrong choice. This is a big enough life change to warrant some feelings of cold feet; when accented by the danger and uncertainty of rocket salvos, it's downright panic-inducing.

I can already feel that I'm in for another sleepless night.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Six days to go...

By this time next week, I'll be in my new home - Jerusalem, Israel.

While I'm still excited to be going, several factors have been giving me pause for thought. Not least the escalating situation, which is taking place, centre stage, in - you guessed it - good old west Jerusalem, and other locations around the country.

Far be it from me to provide my own political comment on whatever is happening. I always wonder what possesses those people who post long diatribes. Maybe they have wee epitomes, a symptom of our times, unfortunately, that PEOPLE MUST KNOW WHAT I'M THINKING ABOUT, WHEN I'M THINKING ABOUT IT. AND FAST!

I tend to go with the other, preferable realisation - who cares what I think anyway?! - yet still blabber on all of my (non-political) thoughts via this blog. I confess it's mainly to keep people updated on my aliya progress, so I don't have to answer the same questions 20-odd times. I like to think I'm being helpful with this approach - it also means people get to skip the bits they CBA to read/hear. Don't say I'm not good to you, people.

All of that aside, voicing political opinions on social media/in conversation with those who've already made their minds up serves very little purpose, nor will it change anything. However the shoddy political situation is a massive consideration to take into account, when making or preparing for aliya. It always has been.

I'm torn between what I know and what I'm seeing. My facebook feed swings wildly between semi-alarmist articles, blogs ranging from the loudmouthed and unconsidered to the perceptive and analytical, posts in groups alerting to potential chefetz chashudim - suspicious objects - around Israel and pictures of my Israel-dwelling friends on the beach. What on earth am I meant to think?

The only comparative experience I can draw on was during my last extended sojourn, coinciding with 2010s Gaza Flotilla. Traumatic events aside, my personal experience was that I had serious FOMO, so rather than stay up all night and report on what was about to happen, I decided to go out drinking. I then woke up the next day with a biblically epic hangover and heard 8 people had been killed, and it was now an international incident. Seeing missed calls on my phone, telling me to haul arse to Ashdod (where the flotilla had been towed), I realised after trying a bit that that wasn't going to happen (it didn't) as roads were blocked. Disgruntled and head pounding, I returned to Tel Aviv (it transpired I'd left my wallet there anyway), where nothing at all was different, and everyone was getting on with their usual Friday morning activities.

The phone calls I received from friends and family back in Blighty were borderline hysterical though. The BBC were whipping things up again and people feared for my safety. While I was grateful for their well wishes and concern, I was also rather hungover and couldn't piece together their information with what I was actually seeing in front of me.

People do seem to be getting around and about in Israel, even if the situation is more tense than usual. It's easy for me to say, from my luxurious flat, Corny on my lap and only the sound of faraway traffic, for the next few days at least,  that maybe the situation isn't as dangerous as it seems.

Or, it could be. It could be worse. I fully admit it's scaring me and that if anything would lead to cold feet, it's this.

It's just such Sod's Law (non-Brits - yeah, I see you. Thanks for reading :) that after 5 years of waiting and dreaming of this week - my last week in England! - that something as awful as this would happen. While I know that sounds awful - 4 teenagers have been murdered, and thank gd it's not my personal tragedy, the national and international aftermath is enough to unsettle the most po-faced amongst us.

Otherwise, I am looking forward to my last day as a teacher, on Thursday. Yet I am dreading Friday. I have been given the day off by my Head of Department, who has also experienced the joys of emigration, ahe thinks I will definitely need it. I'm so exhausted currently that my stubborn streak seems to have vanished and I agreed.

Thus, I'll be taking Corny to his new home on Friday, instead of Wednesday, before returning, for a few hours, to my flat, meeting the cleaners and then returning to my parents' home for my last Shabbat here.

I have said more (painful) goodbyes this weekend. I've packed a bit more stuff up. The flat's nearly empty

I'm so confused about how I feel. It's primarily excitement, blended with fear, with accents of...sorrow?

I'm consciously partly scared of making a massive mistake - leaving my comfortable (if mind-numbingly boring) life here, and giving away Corny, without being able to take him back if I ever returned, or gambling on the new beginning I've craved so badly.

Only time will tell. until then, I'll continue my bewildering cycle of elation, crying, news-checking and goodbyes.